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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Middleton, John (1825–1894)

by Emma E. Middleton

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974

John Middleton (1825-1894), policeman, was born in Foulsham, Norfolk, England, son of Michael Middleton, labourer, and his wife Mary Ann, née Phillips. In 1841 he worked in a Foulsham bakery and in 1843 enlisted in the 5th Regiment. He served in Ireland and later in Mauritius, where in 1848 at Port Louis he married Ellen, née Hartley of Lancashire. They sailed with two children in the Alecto as steerage passengers and arrived at Melbourne on 13 October 1852.

Middleton became a baker in Melbourne and later at Diamond Swamp, New South Wales, before he joined the Western Road Patrol in November 1854 as a trooper. Keen and ambitious, he daily recorded his movements and those of other officers. He served at Diamond Swamp from 1855 where he was promoted sergeant, at Blackheath from 1857 and Hartley from 1860. In 1861 he was sent to Tuena, close to the hide-outs of 'highway-men' in the Abercrombie Ranges. In May-June 1861 with Constable Hosie he looked for the bushranger, Johnny Peisley. On 15 July they rode to Bigga and next day went to Fogg's sly-grog shop where they surprised Frank Gardiner. Without mentioning Gardiner, Middleton recorded in his diary: 'Middleton and Hosie [went] to Fogg's. Middleton shot in four places, returned to Bigga. Hosie slightly wounded returned after'. Although Middleton arrested Gardiner, Hosie allegedly allowed him to escape. In December Middleton received a gold ring from Captain Edward Battye, superintendent of the Western Road Patrol, 'in admiration of the indomitable courage displayed by him in attacking and eventually capturing (after being severely wounded) the outlaw “Gardiner” with a single barrelled Pistol, knowing him at the same time to be armed with a brace of Revolvers'. In 1864 Middleton was a main witness for the Crown in the trials of Gardiner but contradicted himself in evidence. In 1875 he was awarded one of the silver medals issued by the government for gallant and faithful services in resisting or capturing bushrangers.

Middleton served as inspector of slaughter-houses at Tuena, Stoney Creek, Orange and Bungendore before he retired in 1876 with a gratuity of £136 10s. In 1865 he had made his home in Orange and became an alderman and mayor in 1891. For years he had suffered from paralysis and cancer of the lip, the result of injuries and exposure. Aged 68 he died on 6 November 1894 at Orange and was buried in the Anglican cemetery. He was survived by five sons and four daughters.

Select Bibliography

  • C. White, History of Australian Bushranging, vol 1 (Syd 1900)
  • Orange Leader, 10 Nov 1894
  • Western Advocate (Orange), 10 Nov 1894
  • J. Middleton diary and family papers (State Library of New South Wales)
  • private information.

Citation details

Emma E. Middleton, 'Middleton, John (1825–1894)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 31 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974

View the front pages for Volume 5

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